Cosmopolis – a review of a very bad film

It always adds a certain je ne sais quoi when people leave a film part way through a film, particularly when quite a few people leave.

Cosmopolis is David Cronenberg’s latest film. It’s based on a novella by Don de Lillo. It focuses on a young man played by Robert Pattinson who has become phenomenally rich, at least on paper, from his currency transactions and betting against currencies. He has created a place called the Complex which runs any number of algorithms to analyse patterns and information in order to make more money.

The film covers the course of one day. Pattinson’s character Packer spends most of his time, just like the other rich people, in a custom stretch limo, from where he holds court. On the day in question, he decides that he’s going for a haircut. The city is in chaos and his security chief advises him against the trip due to security threats but off he goes anyway. As he makes his slow and tedious journey, his empire is slowly crumbling as he bets against the yuan, which refuses to fall in value. As his empire crumbles, so does his life and he heads off on a voyage of discovery, freedom and self-destruction.

Packer is intelligent, he knows facts, has lots of money, he wants to own things merely for the sake of owning things but lacks any real knowledge of the world, how it functions and how any of his actions could possibly affect anyone. He has a director of theory, who explains things, giving him a worldview based, as you would expect, purely on theory. He has sex but doesn’t love, he’s married but never has sex with his wife. He’s not a particularly nice character, but he’s not loathsome, just disconnected from the real world and doesn’t really shown any emotions. So far so good. I’ll not explain more of the plot, not that you should particularly care, since there’s no real plot or tension to explain.

So, the film then. Self indulgent doesn’t really do it justice. Onanistic is probably closer to the truth. There are some books that are crying out to be made into films. Those where there is dramatic tension, where there is something of cinematic value to be added through converting the book into a film. This film is predominantly a verbose screenplay, lots of dialogue, delivered without much in the way of verve, lots of questions that are asked but never answered and lots of nothing really. There is a critique of the capitalist financial market system, where money is made but nothing is produced and a modern society where people are disconnected from the real world but even so, this should have stayed as the written word, where the ideas can be developed. The critique here is shallow and lacking any nuance. The characters don’t really get near the wonders of shallow, except for Paul Giamatti’s angry ex-analyst and Mathieu Amalric’s pie-throwing protestor. There are excruciating roles for Juliette Binoche and Samantha Morton. And there is the awful, horrible dialogue.  So much awful, horrible dialogue.

I realise the film is not intended as a representation of reality, but all I wanted was some intelligence, some acting, some wit and some dramatic tension. The only tension came from wondering when the thing was going to end.

Those people who left early showed an uncanny prescience.


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